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Entries in New York Yankees (126)

Thursday
Sep052013

Can Boston Handle Nova's Low Heat?

Historically, Red Sox hitters have tagged Ivan Nova. The Yankees righty takes the mound  tonight having allowed a career .298 batting average, a .375 on-base percentage and a .430 slugging percentage against the Sox, essentially turning the average Boston batter into Dustin Pedroia circa 2013.

This time could be different, though. The Red Sox have yet to take on the 2013 version of Nova, who has transformed from one of the most homer-prone starting pitchers in the game last season (1.5 home runs allowed per nine innings in 2012) to one if its stingiest with the long ball. With 0.41 home runs surrendered per nine frames, Nova trails just Francisco Liriano (0.34 HR/9), Matt Harvey (0.35), Jhoulys Chacin (0.37) and Clayton Kershaw (0.39) in homer rate among starters throwing 100-plus innings.

Nova has slashed his home run total by pounding hitters at the knees with his fastball, generating lots of weak grounders rather than majestic souvenirs. Boston, however, thrives against knee-high heaters. Who will prevail tonight when a resurgent Nova takes on Boston's low-ball sluggers?

In 2012, Ivan Nova had about as much success with his fastball as Charlie Brown. He served up 14 home runs and allowed batters to slug .597 against his fastball -- only soft-tossers Chris Capuano, Jake Westbrook, Bronson Arroyo and Bruce Chen got hit harder. This year, though? Nova has allowed only three homers off his fastball, and he has an opponent slugging percentage (.398) that's comfortably below the major league average for starting pitchers (.442) in 2013.

Keeping his fastball low has been key for Nova. Check out his fastball location last year, and then in 2013:

Nova's fastball location, 2012

novafastballloc12

Nova's fastball location, 2013

novafastballloc13

He located about 29 percent of his fastballs to the lower third of the strike zone in 2012, but he has bumped that figure up to 40 percent this year. You might also notice that Nova is throwing many of those low fastballs to his arm side (about 57 percent of his low fastballs have been thrown to his arm side this year, up from just 31 percent in 2012).

Throwing more low, arm-side heat, Nova has increased his ground ball rate with his fastball from a league average 44 percent in 2012 to 54 percent. The only AL starters burning worms more often with their fastball are Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, Joe Saunders and Derek Holland.

Nova's new fastball approach will be tested against the Sox, who have collectively cranked 16 home runs against low heat (fourth-most in the majors) and slugged an MLB-best .505. David Ortiz (.726 slugging percentage vs. low fastballs), Mike Napoli (.659), Pedroia (.536) and Daniel Nava (.500) have done the most damage when pitchers throw low gas. Will Big Papi (a career .308/.400/.615 hitter in 15 PA versus Nova) continue to own Nova, or will the new-look Yankee scorch the earth against the Sox? Stay tuned.

Tuesday
Aug062013

Starting bad for Andy Pettitte

As the world awaited the return of Alex Rodriguez last night, you can be assured more than a few anxious Yankee eyes were focused on Andy Pettitte.

And it was ugly. Pettitte last 2.2 innings and allowed 11 hits and seven runs. It was his shortest start since July 18, 2010.

At 41, Pettitte seems to have run out of gas.

He is 7-9 on the season with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.461 WHIP. But that is only telling part of the story

Here is Andy Pettitte' 2013 story

Andy Pettitte Inning by Inning - 2013
 AVGSLUGOBPHRG
1st inning .396 .560 .430 2 20
2nd inning .260 .390 .301 2 20
3rd inning .293 .387 .341 0 20
4th inning .254 .394 .295 2 19
5th inning .188 .297 .264 1 19
6th inning .322 .661 .355 6 15
7th inning .316 .421 .333 0 11
8th inning .333 .333 .333 0 3
9th inning - - - 0 -

But that is only telling part of the story

Since July 1, in seven starts, Pettitte is 2-3 with a 5.72 ERA, 1.672 WHIP and a .331 BAA.

But that is only telling part of the story

When I say start, I literally mean start, as in the start of each game where Pettitte has had headaches. He's allowed runs in the 1st inning in seven straight starts. 

Pettitte Inning by Inning since July 1, 2013

 AVGSLUGOBPHRG
1st inning .514 .757 .524 2 7
2nd inning .323 .581 .344 2 7
3rd inning .333 .407 .379 0 7
4th inning .227 .318 .261 0 6
5th inning .095 .095 .136 0 6
6th inning .333 .667 .333 2 6
7th inning .400 .500 .455 0 4
8th inning - - - 0 -

But that is only telling part of the story

When I say start, I literally mean start, as in the start of at bats, where Pettitte has had headaches.

Pettitte by Count - 2013
 AVGSLUGOBPHRABHXBH
0-0 .433 .683 .413 3 60 26 9
0-1 .344 .410 .365 0 61 21 4
1-0 .325 .575 .325 2 40 13 5
1-1 .328 .410 .323 0 61 20 4
0-2 .116 .233 .116 1 43 5 3
2-0 .364 .545 .333 0 11 4 2
2-1 .400 .600 .381 1 20 8 2
1-2 .222 .361 .243 2 72 16 6
3-0 .000 .000 .800 0 1 0 0
2-2 .274 .435 .274 2 62 17 6
3-1 .333 .333 .750 0 6 2 0
3-2 .220 .380 .458 2 50 11 4

Starting to get late

Whether it is the start of a game, or the start of an at bat, it's starting to look problematic for Andy Pettitte.

And despite the fact that now Pettitte at 252, has one more one win than Bob Gibson and one less than Carl Hubbell, and despite the fact that now Pettitte at 2404, has eight more strikeouts win than Sandy Koufax and three more Dennis Eckersley, Pettitte may be starting to see the end.

Tuesday
Aug062013

CC Sabathia's HR Woes

Yankees starter CC Sabathia has coughed up a career-high 24 home runs during the 2013 season. That's tied with R.A. Dickey and Joe Blanton for second-most among all starting pitchers. While the 33-year-old has bested fellow $20 million-plus-a-year veterans Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira by at least staying on the field, Sabathia also has the eighth-worst adjusted ERA (85 ERA+) among qualified American League starters.

The 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star has usually been one of the game's best at preventing big flys, allowing just 0.8 home runs nine innings from his rookie year in 2001 through 2012. Why has Sabathia (1.4 HR/9 in 2013) seemingly morphed into a left-handed Phil Hughes? Here's a closer look at how hitters are taking CC deep.

  • Sabathia's no-longer-fast fastball is the main culprit, as hitters have homered 15 times against the pitch in 2013. Only A.J. Griffin (20) has given up more home runs with the fastball. As Sabathia's velocity diminishes, hitters are increasingly ripping his fastball down the lines and into the seats. He has lost about three ticks since 2011, and opponents are now pulling well over 40 percent of his fastballs:

Sabathia's slowing fastball

Ten of the 15 fastball home runs Sabathia has given up this year have been pulled. Back in 2011, CC trailed just David Price and Derek Holland in average fastball velocity among lefty starters. This year, he places a middling 21st out of 44 lefty starters who have thrown at least 500 fastballs.

  • Sabathia is leaving more pitches over the middle of the strike zone this season (27%) than in 2012 (24%), and he's paying for it. Eleven of the 24 homers he has allowed have caught the fat part of the plate, already surpassing his 2012 total (eight).
  • He's also generating fewer ground balls in 2013 (46% of balls put in play) than in 2012 (49%). Opponents aren't just putting the ball in the air more frequently against Sabathia, though -- they're driving those fly balls farther. Fly balls hit off CC are traveling an average of 272 feet this year, up from 259 feet last season and the 266 foot average for starting pitchers.
  • Sabathia is getting scorched more often when the hitter's back is against the wall, allowing more two-strike home runs in 2013 (eight) than in 2011 and 2012 combined (six). CC's newfound aggression with two strikes may be part of the problem -- he's throwing pitches over the plate 48% of the time in two-strike counts this year, compared to 38% in 2012. Six of the eight homers he has given up in two-strike counts have come on in-zone pitches.
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